No Drummer? No Problem with a Vintage 808 Drum Machine

The Roland 808 drum machine was one of the very first drum machines to allow users to program their own beats instead of using pre-programmed rhythms. Most vintage 808 drum machines were manufactured between 1980 and 1983, which put them right on track for the synth-pop movement and allowed them to become a big part of the burgeoning new wave sound. 

The importance of the Roland 808 

Nowadays, the classic 808 drum machine and other Roland drum machines are considered major collector's items and are prized by producers and artists who want to harness their unique, classic sound. Depending on the condition of the machine, the price can range quite a bit from seller to seller. 

Stats and facts about the 808 drum machine 

808 drum machines were the gold standard for over a decade. Though a commercial flop when first introduced, thanks to their artificial drum replications, the 808 soon caught on in the electronic dance scene and several other developing musical genres. The 909 drum machine that was designed to replace it would eventually suffer the same fate, becoming a failure for the company but a big hit in underground scenes. Some statistics are:  

  • The 808 bass drum sound is one of the most famous kick drum sounds in music production history.
  • Uses analog synthesis, not recordings, to generate the drum sounds.
  • Besides being used in electronic music, the 808 was a massive contributor to the early Hip Hop sound.
  • Has been used on more hit records than any other drum machine.

Should you buy the original to get the sound? 

Those looking to buy a Roland 808 drum machine from eBay can find many used or refurbished models for sale. There are also several computer programs available that help producers and artists better integrate the sounds of the 808 with their largely digital studios. These programs work by digitally replicating the sound of the entire 808 unit, right down to the knobs and keys. Good examples include the programmable 808 drum machine for MAC and the TR-08 rhythm composer program. Both designed and supplied by Roland, they offer a great alternative to the analog, desk-top model. They are also much more cost-effective as well, considering the 808's collector's item status.